Written by Nicole Ham
Professional photography by Strike a Pose Photography
Missy was a “box kitten” brought into the vet with her siblings after someone found them in a box by a petrol station. Working at a vet as I do, you tend to want to take everyone home – as anyone will tell you, all my animals are rescued or adopted.
An awful day
Thursday the 3rd of November 2016 was an awful day; I walked out of work after a long day only to discover that my car had been stolen. Overhead, a terrible storm was gathering and, as I was housesitting at the time, I was stressing out about their dogs and, obviously, my own animals.
A kind friend picked me up and took me to the house-sitting residence where I made sure their dogs were ok; then she dropped me off at my house so I could borrow my mother’s car and check on all our animals.
To my relief, everyone seemed just fine, including my calico girl, Missy, who, although a little wet from the rain, was happy inside with her best friend, a Border Collie-mix (they’d grown up together and one was never far from the other.)
I obviously had to get back to the “kids” I was looking after and left knowing everyone was safe and inside with my mum.
Missy was missing
The next day I stopped in at home again to see my mum and all our pets and she told me she hadn’t seen Missy when she got home; this wasn’t unusual but everyone was usually there to greet us on arrival.
I called for her, but nothing. Missy had never been a “people person” and often only came when I called… but this time, she didn’t. I knew something was wrong.
I wandered around our complex and called repeatedly; I asked my mum to let me know if she came home but, by the next morning when there was no sign of her, the sinking feeling came with a massive punch as I realised she was gone.
I felt helpless
I always say that my animals are my therapy. They are the constant happy in my life and when Missy went missing it hit me hard, worse than I think I or my family had expected. I was absolutely heartbroken.
I put up posters, I researched animal communicators, we sent out posters, I went to all the SPCAs and there was nothing… just nothing.
After weeks of not finding her and driving around and popping in at the SPCAs, I felt helpless. Some days were worse than others and I always felt lost, like a part of me was missing. My chickens were not all in the coop, if one could look at it that way. All I could think about was, was she ok? Was she alive or dead? Was she hurt? Was she being fed?
The amount of unanswerable questions I asked myself on any given day was endless. It was the not knowing that killed me the most; I just wanted closure – no matter how bad or good the news.
Time went by
It had been over a year (13 months, give or take) and the pain was a little less but there was no forgetting and I was losing hope that I would ever see her again… and then it happened.
I’d deactivated my Facebook but Jessica Gopper, my closest friend who’d gone through everything with me about Missy, even from the time she was just a little fluff ball, was always looking to see if anyone ever posted about her.
Incredibly, one day, true as could be, Jessica came across a calico cat on Facebook. There was no denying it was Missy – the markings on her face, the way she looked… it was her! She’d appeared in someone’s garden and the people had started feeding and looking out for her.
I couldn’t believe it! She was all the way in Jukskei Park, about 5.3kms away from where I live. I was anxious, nervous and in shock, so many things ran through my mind. Some people were judgmental around the story without the facts and others were amazing and I was grateful for all the positive messages from everyone.
She’d have to be trapped
We contacted Eva May, who’d been feeding Missy (I’ll be forever grateful to her for this), and she was more than happy to help; we arranged a night for me to go and sit and wait to see if Missy would come, but she didn’t.
I was getting more and more anxious with every day that passed. Eventually, after many discussions and much to my dislike, I realised I’d have to trap her.
I must thank a well-known feral cat feeder and animal rescuer, Vivienne Jones, for her assistance. She was so amazingly helpful and lent me one of her cat traps to try and get Missy. Again Eva was so accommodating and kind and let me set up the trap on her patio, promising to call me if Missy got caught. Two hours after leaving I received the phone call: Missy was in the trap.
Would she remember me?
Eva had moved her into the house and when I arrived I was so nervous. Would she remember me, would she even want to be home? Would she think I’d abandoned her this whole time and not cared that she’d gone?
I lifted the blanket and there she was, I folded onto the floor in tears. After so long and actually having her in front of me… I couldn’t believe it.
I took her straight to the vet – she was a little skinny and had a few knotted areas, but she was alive and cuddled straight into my arms on the table. She hadn’t forgotten me. She stayed at the vet to be monitored as she was very constipated and they needed to give her an enema, plus I felt better knowing she would be monitored.
A couple of days later, Missy went into acute renal failure. We don’t know what caused it, but, as usual, everyone was there to help and were amazingly supportive. Fourways Vet isn’t just a place I work at, it’s my second family, and if anyone could pull her through, it was them. I brought my Collie-mix dog, Ashley, to visit one day and it was like they’d never been apart.
Home sweet home – and hope
A week later, I took Missy home. She settled in like nothing had ever really changed and is slowly getting back to her usual self. Sometimes I don’t feel it’s real and I find myself disturbing her from her sleep to give her a cuddle and love. She isn’t allowed outside without supervision and it will most likely stay like this for a while.
I owe a big thank you to Eva for looking after my madam and feeding her, and to Vivienne for your help and support in trapping her and sharing her story. I want to say a massive thank you to my Fourways Vet family; I don’t know what I’d do without you all, your support, care and love have been amazing. I’m very lucky to work with such an amazing team of people.
And most of all I want to thank Jessica for never giving up even when I almost had.
I have my Missy back and it was and forever will be the greatest gift – I am truly blessed. So to everyone who is still looking, don’t give up hope, miracles happen every day. I pray this story gives people hope. I was lucky and blessed to have found my baby – and that’s what my animals are to me: my babies.
By Eva May’s daughter, Domenique
Every day started or ended with a small game of hide ‘n’ seek – the only difference was that we were the seekers while little Missy was the hider. It started off as a casual popping up every now and then on our property. On coming home at nine o’clock at night, a small shadow would swoop across the driveway and disappear once again. Or my mother, Eva, would be outside at six in the afternoon watering the garden when she’d spot a small splash of white among the plants.
These small, subtle occurrences then grew from occurring once a week to nearly every day or evening. Our two cats became a little hostile at night, staring through the window, seeing something outside that we did not. The little spook would sometimes make it easy to be spotted and sometimes not; after about four months of this, we realised that it wasn’t in our imagination nor was it a little ghost but a beautiful white, fluffy kitty.
We’d arrive home to see the pretty cat sitting by the gate or our neighbours’ wall, but as soon as she saw us, she’d jump up and disappear into our garden.
We started leaving food out
The cat seemed rather content with the idea of staying in our garden in the evenings, even though we had two pussycats of our own which jealously watched her every move from the window. I brought up the discussion with my mother – we needed to look after this pussycat and feed her; if no one in the area was her mom, maybe we could even give her a home.
We began leaving her food on the veranda every evening. To our surprise, the bowl would be licked clean by the following morning. Occasionally, we’d see her on the balcony hunched over her bowl but the instant she noticed she was being watched, she’d dash off.
Mr Ramsey and Mr Leroy, our cats, did not appreciate this stranger in their garden at all. One night, they actually snuck out to chase and catch our little stray. We were rather frantic, worrying where our cats had disappeared to because they were gone for a long time; we were also worried about the stray.
Sadly, after this occurrence, the calico cat didn’t return for quite some time. Weeks passed; we kept putting food out and kept our animals on their usual night-time curfew but still she didn’t return. My heart broke for her.
The little cat was back!
Several weeks later, my mother woke me up exclaiming that our little stray cat was back – and she needed our help! We rushed into the garden and saw her high up in our lemon tree, clinging to the branches, cornered by our dog Pipa and Mr Ramsey.
My mother swooped the two of them up and took the two inside while I sat quietly outside watching her, trying to see if she was okay. She gazed at me with her deep-sapphire eyes and I just fell in love.
She wasn’t eager to chat or hang out, so I laid out some food and kept the animals inside. From then on, she started coming back at night again. We went back to our usual schedule and kept feeding her. Fridays and weekends were “treat nights” where she got fresh mincemeat, which she loved.
Then everything changed
One eventful day changed everything – my mother was chatting to her fellow feral feeder friends when she decided to share the story of our furry little guest. They told her that this kitty looked just like a calico cat with blue eyes called Missy who’d gone missing more than year ago!
One thing led to another and we found her mom, Nicole. Now we needed to reunite them...
Nicole came to try and catch Missy but it seemed she was too nervous after being a stray for so long and she wouldn’t be caught. Desperate to have her Missy back home, she brought a cat trap – because Missy was used to our feeding schedule, we knew when she usually appeared and could place the trap at six in the evening, knowing she was likely to come then. Everyone’s hopes were up. Would there be a happy reunion that night?
A fantastic reunion
A loud clatter awoke us at 1AM that very same night/morning. We hurried out to check and, wonder of wonders, Missy was in the trap! And she was not impressed. We popped a blanket over the trap and placed her in our study to help calm her, and immediately phoned Nicole who rushed over to our house without a second to spare.
When Nicole made eye contact with Missy, she literally fell to her knees, tears streaming. The moment Missy saw her, she seemed to calm down. They’d found each other at last.
Missy was known to us as a stray that didn’t belong to anyone, but, in the blink of an eye, became a stray no longer and was, instead, a kitty with a loving home again. Words cannot describe the feelings which came up when seeing “mommy” and “baby” reunited after all that time.